Detroit Pistons: Hits and misses for coach Casey in player development

Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) and head coach Dwane Casey Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Detroit Pistons guard Cade Cunningham (2) and head coach Dwane Casey Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Pistons, Dwane Casey
Head coach Dwane Casey of the Detroit Pistons (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

Over the years Dwane Casey has had the pleasure of coaching some truly great players as a head coach for the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons.

He coached many of them early on in their careers and had the opportunity to pour into them all that he’s learned from several decades of coaching experience.

He had a lot of success developing talent in Toronto and has been asked to do the same for the Detroit Pistons. Here’s a look at some of his success stories and how things are going so far for the young Pistons.

Dwane Casey: The Toronto Years

Fred Vanvleet

Many know the very touching story of how he “bet on himself”. However, part of the reason the Raptors added him to the roster was because of Dwane Casey.

According to a Raptors reporter, Dwane Casey saw Fred, a small-ish and unassuming kid, but something about him caught his eye. When he watched him play he said he saw the “It” factor. He knew one day he’d be special as long as he continued to work.

VanVleet went from undrafted to All-Star and was developed early under Coach Casey.

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Pascal Siakam

Unlike Vanvleet, Siakam was actually drafted, he was selected 27th overall that year, but Casey knew his forward was unpolished and needed a little bit of training at the G-league level.

He is on record saying upon drafting him he didn’t yet see the star-level talent that he has gained over the years. He put him on the G-league affiliate to help grow the young player and shape him into a better scorer. It worked wonders, as he had slowly began to improve his jump shot, and his defense while already solid became better and he was able to lock down the opposing team’s best player on a nightly basis.

Casey credits Siakam’s work ethic for his transformation, but it takes a keen eye to see what players are ready for the NBA and which ones aren’t. He’s another guy coach Casey helped shape into an All-Star.

Jonas Valanciunas

Jonas Valanciunas was on the Raptors roster two years before Dwane got the head coaching position, but just because he wasn’t there at the beginning doesn’t mean he didn’t help the enter evolve. Valanciunas was at first far too slow and sloppy. The same year Casey took over Valanciunas hit his career high in points per game, and his win share total took off as well as his VORP total (value over replacement player). He was already a solid rebounder, but anyone who sees him play now knows he is one of the best rebounders in the league and a lot of that tenacity stems back to his mentor in Toronto.

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan was already in the league for five years before Casey had even coached a single game for the Raptors. However, just because you are already good doesn’t mean you can’t get better. That’s exactly what happened to DeRozan. It doesn’t immediately pop out to you on the box score because his numbers were already pretty nice the year just before Casey was hired. Though, a deeper dive shows that his best years were under the guidance of Casey. All but one of his several All-Star, and All-NBA nods came during the Dwane Casey era. DeMar and Casey also share a very special bond that started on the court and grew into a loving relationship.

DeMar on Casey:

"I wouldn’t be the player I am today. I wouldn’t be sitting here. I wouldn’t have the success I’ve had in my career if it wasn’t for Casey,” DeRozan said. “Casey for me is something bigger than a head coach I played for. He was sort of a father figure for me. He kind of allowed me to be myself on the basketball court and allowed me to grow into the player I am today."

Casey said that when he first arrived DeRozan had several deficiencies in his game, he couldn’t even pass the ball in double team situations without turning it over let  alone run an offense. Now he’s a deadly two way threat with one of the deepest bags in the league, partially because of his time with coach Casey.

So can he do the same for the Detroit Pistons?